The [new] Holidays

January 1, 2011

It’s been a different kind of year.

 The biggest change, of course, was my dog, Knox. He came into my life the week before Thanksgiving after many years of wondering “am I ready for a dog?”  After meeting Knox for the first time at the home of his foster family in Fairview, TX, the answer was YES. And now that we have settled in, been introduced to the California Jackson/Espiau Clan, had our first vet visit and started a much more regular routine of vacuuming, the answer is still YES!

But the holidays were also very different this year. Last year the holidays were spent for me, at least, in fear of feeling sad. I had still not become at all accustomed to a family gathering without my mom and was uncomfortable about the whole thing. How could we enjoy ourselves without her?

This year was different in the sense that it was an insanely enjoyable Christmas holiday in Fresno, and while mom was as always in my thoughts, I felt like we had all made a little progress towards adjusting to our shared loss.

Christmas Eve started with an intense workout at Crossfit Fresno, followed by some hot chocolate in the Tower District with my friends from high school, Zulema & Willow, and Zulema’s husband, Andrew.

That same afternoon, dad prepared an amazing lunch for me, Isaac and his brood – homemade tamales, guacamole, carne asada…it was amazing. Dad’s tamales this year were the best that I can remember. It seemed like a big lunch…and not very Paleo…but I think we managed to burn off any excessive carbs with several post-lunch rounds of Just Dance 2 on the Wii (last year’s gift from Santa).

That night, the Chowchilla Jacksons went to Alicia’s parent’s house to open presents while my dad introduced me to some new family friends that hosted an amazing Christmas Eve dinner and made me feel right at home.

Dad and I woke up early on Saturday morning and drove to Chowchilla for our family Christmas. Isaac & Alicia BBQ’d steaks for lunch as we all waited for the opening of the presents. It would seem that the Jacksons were especially fortunate this year, as seemingly every Christmas wish was granted. It may have been cold and wet outside, but it was warm and comfortable at Isaac’s house as we spent a relaxing afternoon as a family, lounging with the dogs and singing a little karaoke.

Although I had to fly back to Dallas on Sunday afternoon, we were all able to meet again on Sunday morning at St. Peter’s to spend some time at mom’s niche. This was the first time that I had been back to see the niche since placing her urn there over a year ago. It was reassuring to come back, and see the urn, safe as we had left it, surrounded by fresh calla lilies.

My good friends, Kaz  and Hitomi Makita were visiting CA for the holidays from their home in Vancouver, and travelled several hours out-of their-way to Fresno for a visit with us. Kaz and Hitomi had visited us in Fresno several times when they lived in CA, but this was their first visit in over 10 years, and their first visit with both of their children, Riku and Miku. We all spent several hours catching up (along with a few more rounds of Just Dance 2) before I had to go to the airport for the return flight to Dallas.

Remarkably, all of this occurred in just 2.5 days. It was a whirlwind of family fun. There were plenty of moments when all of our thoughts turned to my mom…it’s inevitable when we get together (but especially in connection with all of our family’s holiday memories and traditions). But even during our visit at St. Peter’s, I was never sad. I was immensely happy because we are all healthy and happy and together – I know that mom was with us, and this would have been how she would have wanted to spend Christmas/how she would have wanted Christmas to be for us. Really, without her, these new memories would not have been possible…despite her absence, I think that she is a big part of who we are.

I hope that your holidays were as enjoyable as mine, and wish you all the best in 2011.